How Can Cities Keep College Graduates? Some Homegrown Solutions

Yahoo Contributor Network

San Francisco is a hoarder -- of the enviable kind.

The city by the bay lures and keeps an educated population: 43.4 percent of its adults had college degrees in 2010, among the highest in the nation, says a Brookings Institution study released the last week of May.

And the gap between the haves and the have-nots -- cities that stockpile college graduates and those that don't -- has widened since 1970. Some seemingly don't have to work too hard, while others are donning their thinking caps. Take Niagara Falls, N.Y., for example, which is offering to pay down student loans to gain young residents.

So, what is a city to do?

If you ask around, Americans will tell you their hometowns have quite a bit of work ahead. Yahoo! News queried residents of metro areas, large and small: How can your city attract college-educated residents? What is it doing right? What are some creative tactics?

Here are some homegrown solutions:


Even San Francisco could improve, writes Laurie Jo Miller Farr. The city needs to further tout that it's at Silicon Valley's doorstep and better amass international talent. But first, Farr advises, it must decrease costs for college grads:

"Rents are too high and few realtors work in rentals, leaving graduates to the questionable resource of trawling through classifieds. Gas prices hover around $5 per gallon. Caltrain, the public transportation option to Silicon Valley, is cutting back on service when it should be enhancing it. While San Francisco is ranked eighth in the United States for bicycle-friendly cities, it has fallen from sixth. San Francisco needs to diversify its work force, incorporating more jobs for arts, humanities and the service industry."

Read more of Farr's solutions here.

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The sun is seen low in the sky before it sets behind the city skyline of Philadelphia on Friday, Jan. 14, 2011. …


It'll take more than cheese steaks and history to keep college graduates in Philadelphia, writes native Tara M. Clapper. The city needs strong programs to help grads find jobs.

"I'm a college graduate and Philadelphia area native who attended school in Maryland and returned to the Philadelphia area. While my plan was always to move back home for a bit upon graduation, I remained in Philadelphia due to its cost of living, which was (and remains) comparatively lower than that of Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas."

Clapper cites programs like CampusPhilly and PhilaSPIN that hold job fairs and internship programs. And they've worked: graduate retention rose from 29 percent to 48 percent from 2004 to 2010.

The city should strike while the iron is hot. "If businesses can snag grads in the economic upswing, it's likely they'll stay for the long term."

Read more of Clapper's solutions here.

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Mount Hood rises over Portland, Ore. (Photo by Ian Sane, Flickr,


This Pacific Northwest city makes students forget the "same old, tired campus bar." The plethora of outdoor activities here tempt college students, Jessica Tyner writes. Add in the relatively low cost of living, and Portland -- with a little good PR -- could be a post-college destination.

"I attended Portland State University for both my undergraduate and graduate education and -- like many of my peers -- I stuck around well after graduation day with thousands of others in the Rose Quarter (where the Trailblazers play and the only place big enough to fit us all)," Tyner writes.

"There are more than half a million 18- to 34-year olds in the Portland metro and 25 percent of those have at least a four-year degree, making it the country's 31st most educated city (per the Portland Business Journal)."

Read more of Tyner's solutions here.

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DAYTON, OH - JULY 9: A sellout crowd of 8,688 fans fill Fifth Third Field for the game between the Dayton Dragons …


Less than a quarter of this southwestern Ohio city's residents boast a four-year college degree, according to the Brookings study. The national average is 32 percent. Why can't Dayton enamor graduates? It's the departure of big-name business.

Resident B.L. Baird writes: "The loss of General Motors (2008), Delphi (2007) and National Cash Register (2010) meant major job losses. Assembly workers were not the only ones left out in the cold. Those with engineering degrees had to transfer or find scarce local employment. Business majors found themselves competing for rare opportunities."

The solution, Baird says, is two-fold:

(1) Better jobs: "Dayton will need to attract manufacturing, engineering and large business ventures to provide a well-educated population a reason to stay. Approximately 24 percent of the area's residents have a college education; many are not working in their degree field. Wright Patterson Air Force Base is one of the few choices left for all disciplines. The medical field appears to be the only one that offers ample employment."

(2) Better housing: "Montgomery County was hit hard by foreclosures, says the Dayton Daily News. Newly graduating students need quality housing choices. Dilapidated rentals are not usually top on their list. The communities surrounding Dayton saw a housing boom. Unfortunately, these homes are still priced well out of the range of anyone starting out in a career."

Read more of Baird's solutions here.

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The "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign is seen in Las Vegas, Nevada in this file photo taken September 10, 2011. …


Tourism has set a low standard in the desert, writes resident Marie Brandon. Most jobs here (think hotels, casinos) just don't require college degrees. Job-hunters only need to accept the minimum wage.

"Our city needs new businesses to draw a different, college-educated crowd, but the recession and budget cuts have made that difficult," Brandon says.

"I agree with geographer Jim Russell, who told the Las Vegas Sun in 2011 that we need to focus on the less elite students rather than the high school scholars who take what we have to offer and leave once they have their degree. If our less elite students, like the ones who are the first in their family to go to college (or 'diamonds-in-the-rough,' the Sun says) joined a local business that's a partner with the university, Russell believes they will be grateful enough to stay and help our struggling city rebuild its economy."

Read more of Brandon's solutions here.

Check out more cities and more solutions offered by their residents:

Los Angeles Makes Neighborhood Diversity Work for Its College Graduates

Northern Virginia Must Aggressively Tout Private-Sector Jobs to Lure the College-Educated

Is Ethnic Diversity the Key to Retaining Cincinnati's College Graduates?

Why Chicago Attracts and Keeps College Graduates

Will It Play in Peoria? If Jobs Are There, It Will

Midland-Odessa Metro Area: To Keep College Grads, Get Housing and Social Mixers

In Mobile, Ala., Keep College Graduates Around by Offering Local Tax Breaks

Springfield, Mo., Area Thrives with College Graduates

How Paducah, Ky., Lures and Keeps College-Educated Residents

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